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HD DVD Review: Happy Feet

Happy Feet (Warner) [HD DVD]
Featuring: Elijah Wood, Brittany Murphy, Hugh Jackman, Savion Glover (motion capture, tap-dance), Hugo Weaving and Nicole Kidman

Not quite sure how George Miller does it… Many directors simply cannot swing with going from darker to lighter fare and crossing genre lines, but Miller is adept at directing solid post-apocalyptic action (the Mad Max series) then going to highly-entertaining, solid pre-apocalyptic musical-comedy. From Babe, the pig to Mumble (Elijah Wood) the tap-dancing penguin, Miller has a way of portraying perfect the anthropomorphic dreams and fears of his animal characters and getting inside their heads with humor and a serious sense of foreboding.

The pop musical nature of the film nearly belies its serious message, but in the end, that message resonates strongly, and the film has been cited by conservatives who cast it as pro-environment agit-prop (’cause the thought of mankind’s overdevelopment into nature’s sanctuaries is such a much nicer message to present to the wee ones I suppose)… the film makes the most of the typical “be yourself” plot. The vocal cast is spot on and wonderful, the digital animation is eye-popping and a there’s simply a lot of fun to be had here for young and the not-so-young.

The visuals on the HD DVD transfer are superb! This is a one of those discs you throw on to melt your friend’s eyeballs and fry their brains just on the visuals alone, thereby making them instant hi-def adopters. The transfer is 2.40 widescreen at 1080p resolution with no compression artifacts that my eye could see. Blacks are nice n’ black, and man, you can see very bit of down feather on those penguin suits (and dude! those Aurora Australis shots are a-mazing). The big difference in formats is that the HD DVD release has audio that’s on par with the video. The nicely mixed TrueHD surround offers sonic clarity not found on the EX mix of the Blu-ray release. The low-end bass doesn’t suffer nearly as much.

HD DVD Features are identical to the Blu-ray offering, with some new stuff and interactive kiddie fare. You get two new, fully animated additional (deleted) sequences in hi-def (presented by George Miller): Mumble Meets A Blue Whale and A Happy Feet Moment. and Dance Like a Penguin: Stomp to the Beat where Savion Glover gives private tap lessons to the tykes. Last, but not least, you get a pair of music videos including “Hit Me Up” by Gia and Prince’s “The Song of the Heart,” which was written for the film. There’s a segment that’s got nothing to do with the film outside of singing animals… that’s the Warner’s classic cartoon, I Love to Singa. The whole package is dedicated to the late Crocodile Hunter, Steve “Crikey!” Irwin. This IS the kind of feel-good film I can get behind… and watch again and again.

HD Report
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